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Question DetailsAsked on 11/22/2015

Bad smell from a apartment bathroom vent approximately 4pm every morning for about 30 mins.

Each morning my girlfriend and I are woken out of a deep sleep by a very strong pungent smell that seems to emanate from the bathroom vent. The building was built in 1963. We are bamboozled with the smell and maintainance guys haven't helped us yet...however before we go to the Super and management company we would love some advice on the right wordage or if someone potentially knows what the xxxx smell is?

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1 Answer


I am guessing you mean 4AM, not 4PM.

Since always same time of day every day and strong enough to wake you, I am guessing one of two things -

1) either the building water heating system has been set on a timer to do greater than normal water heating preparatory to the morning rush and you are getting exhaust fumes from a leaking flue duct, or

2) you have a neighbor who gets up early and generates a real strong smell during his/her morning ablutions - either going to the bathroom or perhaps a perfume or disinfectant or such. I knew one person once who always used campho phenique daily for some reason - on cold sores, warts or whatever - that was extremely pungent. If that is the case, perhaps the installer got lazy and installed bathroom vents so they came together in the ducting or at the roof vent, or perhaps the vent from his/her unit is close to yours and yours does not have an operating flapper in it to prevent backdrafting, or maybe the smell is coming through the floor or wall through utility penetrations.

I would (some day where you can sacrifice some sleep) wake up 10-15 minutes before when this happens, and listed to determine if a neighbor (and which one) starts moving around just before the smell occurs. And also stand on a chair and figure out for certain exactly WHERE it is coming in - under walls, through light fixture (wiring hole gaps), under vanity through plumbing gaps in the wall, through vent, etc. Also, you could try taping over the vent with plastic sheet and tape overnight and see if that stops it - would pretty definitively prove the source. Having this info in hand would help when talking to the super. Also, being able to describe the smell accurately would help a lot too - body odor, xxxx / xxxx , spices (like from someone who eats spicy sausages or such), perfume, disinfectant, alcohol, etc. HAving that sort of investigating by you in hand (write down what you have done to investigate it and what you have noted) strengthens your case with the super too.

You could also talk to neighbors you are friendly with to see if any of them have noted any strong 4AM smells, and what they describe them as and if they have any ideas where coming from.

Could also walk up and down the halls (including floor above and below) at 4AM to see if smell if coming out under door from any apartment, though that presumes ventilation is toward the hall and not strongly into apartments FROM the hall.

Then talk to building management about ventilation issues - though is likely to require a pricey 4AM callout for a contractor to definitively track it down, so expect some resistance from the super.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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